“There are no small parts, only small actors,” according to the father of modern acting, Konstantin Stanislavsky. This is especially true when it comes to the bit part, a role that may be small in size but certainly not in scope. Here’s everything you need to know about the bit part, how to get cast in the role, and how to use it to catalyze your career.
Amy Adams on “The Office” Courtesy NBC
A bit part is a small role in a project; the term indicates a character that interacts with the principal characters but has minimal dialogue. Productions hire bit parts on a daily basis and not on a long-term contract.
- Direct interaction: Unlike extras, bit parts have direct interaction with principal actors.
- Under-five: Bit characters have five lines of dialogue or less. Unlike extras, however, bit parts have at least one speaking line.
- Day player: Since bit part actors are hired on a daily basis, they are considered day players.
“Lucky Hank” Photo Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/AMC
- Get an agent: An agent will always be your best bet when it comes to landing gigs. They often have the inside scoop on open roles and can get you seen by casting directors you might otherwise not have contact with.
- Gain experience on set: Taking on a role as an extra or background character can help you gain experience on set and make you a prime candidate for a bit part. Alternatively, you can try working at an entry-level crew position to gain valuable knowledge of set communication and expectations.
- Submit to bit part roles: Submit yourself for bit part roles online through our comprehensive casting and job database.
- Connect: You can also find open roles and audition opportunities by leaning on the power of social capital. Reach out to your actor friends to let them know your interest in playing a bit part and ask them to let you know about any openings. After ensuring that your social media pages are professional and match who you are as an actor, connect with casting directors and filmmakers on social media. It can even help to attend film festivals and similar events—all it takes is connecting with and impressing one right person.
“Bel-Air” Credit: Travis Ellison/PEACOCK
Bit part players who are members of SAG-AFTRA are guaranteed to earn a minimum of $1,082 per day—or more, depending on the contract negotiations you or your agent make. If you hope to make acting in bit parts your bread and butter, it’s important to land multiple gigs per month.
“Dangerous Years” Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Although the bit part doesn’t require extensive line memorization, rehearsals, or time commitment like bigger roles, this small acting role can still be demanding—and can teach actors a lot.
- Challenging: Bit parts need to be comfortable on set and know how to add to a scene even though they weren’t there from the beginning.
- Flexible: As a freelance position, the bit part role offers more flexibility than roles on long-term contracts. Of course, that also means less job security and lower pay than more full-time positions.
- Valuable: Accepting a role as a bit part allows you to become better acquainted with all things acting, from set politics to seeing your face onscreen. The bit part helps create a sense of authenticity—think of the postal worker (Jack Albertson) in “Miracle on 34th Street” or the waitress (Marilyn Monroe) in “Dangerous Years,” and how they create a more realistic background in the films.
Tom Allen on “Barry” Credit: Merrick Morton/HBO
Here’s what to do if you’ve been working your magic on set bit by bit and want to use that to take your career to the next level.
- Make a good impression: If you impress the director enough—like actor Christian James Pinter did after booking through Backstage—you might be able to convince them to turn your bit part into a supporting role.
- Keep your profile up to date: Your profile should include updated contact info, a recent professional acting headshot and candid image, union status, demographics (age range, ethnicity, and gender), and physical attributes (body type, eye color, and hair color). It should also have your current résumé, skills, and experience, including bit part roles.
- Make a reel: Create a one-to-two-minute demo reel of your best bit part work. This compilation should highlight your range and abilities—and should make agents, casting directors, and producers want to see what else you can do.
- Keep applying: Be on the lookout for bigger roles that match your skill set and acting type and apply away. The more you apply and audition, the more experience you’ll have in front of casting directors. If you land a role that’s slightly inconvenient, it’s better to embrace the opportunity than to let it slide by. “Open yourself up to opportunity and say yes more than no,” casting director Krissi Mcilquham told us.